30 Sep 2017

Nicol, Gawad & ElShorbagy Seal Final Spots at Oracle NetSuite Open

World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad will take on compatriot Mohamed ElShorbagy in the final of the 2017 Men’s Oracle NetSuite Open, PSA M100 tournament after he launched a superb comeback from two games down to beat Peru’s World No.17 Diego Elias in San Francisco,

Elias had beaten World No.4 Matthew in the previous round and continued where he left off against the Englishman in the first two games as he outplayed Gawad with some sublime winners paired with a composed and mature game plan that belied his 20 years of age.

However, Gawad grew into the match as time wore on, with his relentless pressure ultimately paying off as Elias’s energy levels dipped and he came back to win three games without reply to take it 6-11, 4-11, 11-8, 11-7, 11-9 in 90 minutes.

"It’s always good to play an Egyptian in the final," said Gawad.

"Me and Mohamed are almost the same age, he’s only six months older, and we’ve always been competing since we were 7 years old.

"It’s very tough playing him and we always have a huge battle. Hopefully we’ll have a great match and have enough in the tank for tomorrow."

ElShorbagy will appear in a second successive PSA World Tour final after he overcame last year's runner-up James Willstrop, also in a five-game thriller.

Willstrop had fought back from a game down and 10-4 down in the second to go 2-1 ahead but ElShorbagy - who won the PSA Dubai World Series Finals on his last Tour outing - came back at him in the fourth to set up a nail-biting decider.

Both players had match balls as the clash headed into a tie-break but it was the man from Egypt who held his nerve to take it 11-2, 11-13, 8-11, 11-6, 14-12.

“I was thinking I should have been 2-0 up and then suddenly I’m 2-1 down in the semi-finals against someone like James, it was such a huge challenge for me to stay positive and remove any kind of negative thoughts," said ElShorbagy.

"I’m really proud with how I came back, it was never easy, and even in the fifth game, to be 10-8 up and then finding myself 11-10 down after having two match balls, it was challenge after challenge.

“James was playing so well today and once he won that second game and got his confidence, he was like a train, there were times when I couldn’t stop him. I had to keep fighting and that’s what I do best."

Malaysia’s eight-time World Champion Nicol David will play England’s Sarah-Jane Perry in the women’s final after a ruthless display from the World No.5 saw her ease past India’s Pallikal Karthik in just 22 minutes.

David had recovered from match ball down to beat Victoria Lust in the previous round, but she was in charge of proceedings right from the off as she glided around court and gave Pallikal Karthik no chance to launch any kind of attack, with the World No.21 failing to even amass a point in the second game.

Pallikal Karthik found her range more in the third but couldn’t do anything to break David’s spell as the former World No.1 powered to an 11-3, 11-0, 11-5 victory that will see her clash with Perry, who knocked out top seed and defending champion Laura Massaro in yesterday’s semi-final.

“I’m just so pleased to get into the finals here in San Francisco," David said. 

"It’s my first time in the final here, so it will be very exciting for me to play in front of a great crowd. I’m looking forward to tomorrow and I’m really going to give it a good go.

“Whoever is in the final is going to be a contender and I’m up for the battle.”

Live coverage from the final of the Oracle NetSuite Open begins from 19:30 local time (PDT) on Saturday September 30 and all of the action will be shown live on SQUASHTV (rest of world) and Eurosport Player (Europe only).

Results - Semi-Finals: 2017 Men’s Oracle NetSuite Open
[2] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt [4] James Willstrop (ENG) 3-2: 11-2, 11-13, 8-11, 11-6, 14-12 (70m)
[1] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt Diego Elias (PER) 3-2: 6-11, 4-11, 11-8, 11-7, 11-9 (90m)

Draw - Final: To Be Played September 30th
[2] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v [1] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)

Results - Semi-Finals (Bottom Half): 2017 Women’s Oracle NetSuite Open
[2] Nicol David (MAS) bt Dipika Pallikal Karthik (IND) 3-0: 11-3, 11-0, 11-5 (22m)

Draw - Final: To Be Played September 30th
[3] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) v [2] Nicol David (MAS)

ElShorbagy and Willstrop Set Up Mouthwatering Oracle NetSuite Open Semi-Final Clash

Former World No.1s Mohamed ElShorbagy and James Willstrop will meet for the 21st time on the PSA World Tour after they both claimed wins to reach the semi-finals of the 2017 Oracle NetSuite Open, PSA M100 tournament held in San Francisco.

Spectators at the Oracle NetSuite Challenge Court on Justin Herman Plaza witnessed ElShorbagy advance to the last four of this tournament for the first time after he overcame England’s World No.12 Daryl Selby by an 11-5, 13-11, 11-6 scoreline.

“At the beginning of the match I struggled a little bit,” said ElShorbagy.

“We both played a really high quality match in a good spirit like always, it was a good battle. It’s my first year here and I’m absolutely loving it.

“The goal for me this season is to get my World No.1 spot back. I didn’t play very well last season and I want to prove to myself that I can still get the wins when I play well.”

Willstrop, the 2016 runner-up, advanced to the semi-finals of the Oracle NetSuite Open for the second successive year courtesy of a 3-0 triumph against Australia’s World No.15 Ryan Cuskelly.

The match was much closer than the scoreline would suggest, with Cuskelly pushing Willstrop hard and not giving ‘The Marksman’ any room to breath as he narrowly went down 11-9, 12-10, 11-9 in 59 minutes.

Willstrop currently leads the head-to-head record against ElShorbagy 11-9, although the Egyptian has won the last four meetings between the two.

“You’ve got to try not to forget that, even though you’re down on points, you’ve still hopefully put him through some work and played the rallies well,” said Willstrop, who came from behind to win both the second and third games against Cuskelly.

“There’s pressure that might accumulate but I try not think about it because the more you think about the scoreline the worse it will be. You have to concentrate and forget about the scoreboard.”

The other men’s quarter-final matches will take place tomorrow (September 28) as Karim Abdel Gawad, Nick Matthew, Tarek Momen and Diego Elias aim to join ElShorbagy and Willstrop in the semi-finals.

In the women’s event, which features $50k in prize money, England’s top two players Laura Massaro and Sarah-Jane Perry will go head-to-head in a repeat of March’s British Open final after they managed respective wins over Egypt’s Salma Hany Ibrahim and Australia’s Donna Urquhart.

Preston-based Massaro, the defending champion and World No.4, had lost out to Ibrahim the last time they met on the PSA World Tour two years ago but she eased to victory in the first game before a resurgent Ibrahim levelled in the second.

But the lacklustre Ibrahim of the opening game reared her head again in the third as Massaro marched into a 10-1 lead - ultimately seeing it out 11-4 - and the Englishwoman used that momentum to come out on top in a high quality fourth game to seal her place in a second consecutive Oracle NetSuite Open semi-final fixture by an 11-5, 12-14, 11-4, 11-7 scoreline.

"I had to keep myself really upbeat and had to have a lot of positive body language," said Massaro.

"I had to be really alert, had to keep my body language up and had to be 100 per cent respectful of a player with that talent and I’m really happy to get off with a win. 

"It’s a lively court, we’ve played on it a few times in other cities. For me personally, it’s just about trying to stay positive at the front of the court. It’s not natural for me to want to do that but once I’ve hit on a court that’s as cold as this I want to be positive when I go short and I think I had that balance towards the end."

Birmingham-based Perry, meanwhile, surged into the semi-finals after beating Urquhart in straight games at the Bay Club San Francisco.

The World No.6 was dominant for the majority the match and didn’t drop a single point in the second game as she powered to an 11-9, 11-0, 11-9 victory to earn her place in the last four.

“Donna’s such a tough opponent, last time we played it was really close and we’ve had some epic matches so I know how dangerous she is,” said 2015 runner-up Perry.

“I’m feeling good and it will be great to play on the glass court, I’ve got good memories from two years ago. I love playing on the glass court, it’ll be pretty awesome.”

The other women’s semi-final will see Malaysian eight-time World Champion Nicol David line up against Dipika Pallikal Karthik. David came back from a match ball down to avoid a shock defeat to England’s Victoria Lust, while Pallikal Karthik overcame United States No.2 Olivia Blatchford.

The Oracle NetSuite Open continues tomorrow (September 28) on SQUASHTV (rest of world) and Eurosport Player (Europe only).

Results - Quarter-Finals (Top Half): 2017 Men’s Oracle NetSuite Open
[2] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt [7] Daryl Selby (ENG) 3-0: 11-5, 13-11, 11-6 (50m)
[4] James Willstrop (ENG) bt [8] Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) 3-0: 11-9, 12-10, 11-9 (59m)

Draw - Quarter-Finals (Bottom Half): To Be Played September 28th
[3] Nick Matthew (ENG) v Diego Elias (PER)
[5] Tarek Momen (EGY) v [1] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)

Draw - Semi-Final (Top Half): To Be Played September 29th
[2] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v [4] James Willstrop (ENG)

Results - Quarter-Finals (Top Half): 2017 Women’s Oracle NetSuite Open
[1] Laura Massaro (ENG) bt [8] Salma Hany Ibrahim (EGY) 3-1: 11-5, 12-14, 11-4, 11-7 (47m)
[3] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt [7] Donna Urquhart (AUS) 3-0: 11-9, 11-0, 11-9 (25m)
Dipika Pallikal Karthik (IND) bt [6] Olivia Blatchford (USA) 3-0: 13-11, 11-6, 11-9 (35m)
[2] Nicol David (MAS) bt [5] Victoria Lust (ENG) 3-2: 11-5, 7-11, 11-6, 9-11, 12-10 (76m)

Draw - Semi-Final (Top Half): To Be Played September 28th
[1] Laura Massaro (ENG) v [3] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)

Draw - Semi-Final (Bottom Half): To Be Played September 29th

Dipika Pallikal Karthik (IND) v [2] Nicol David (MAS)

27 Sep 2017

Top Seeds Prevail on Opening Day of Oracle NetSuite Open

The opening day of main draw action at the 2017 Oracle NetSuite Open saw all but two of the seeded players across the mens and women’s events make it through to the quarter-final stage, with last year’s runner-up James Willstrop avoiding a shock defeat to Qatar’s Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi in the standout match at the Bay Club San Francisco.

A capacity crowd were treated to a series of fast-paced rallies, with Al Tamimi’s shot-making talents and incredible retrieval skills seeing him go 2-1 ahead, only to see Willstrop take control in the final two games to emerge from the fixture unscathed by an 7-11, 11-8, 9-11, 11-5, 11-6 margin.

"He is very fast and very skilful," said Willstrop.

"It’s also the first match of the season for me and it was a bit cloudy in my head. I have to thank my dad [Malcolm] because I wasn’t calm out there. There’s no time to think in squash and you’re under quite a lot of duress with the oxygen debt, so it’s difficult to think clearly and stay calm.

"It’s that balance about knowing when your shot is on and when not to go for it when you’re under pressure. He was putting me deep and I was having to counter him. That’s the brilliant thing about squash, its about rally construction and choosing the right shots to play at the right time."

Willstrop will take on Australia’s Ryan Cuskelly in the next round after he defeated Mexico’s Cesar Salazar, while World No.3 Mohamed ElShorbagy overcame former World No.4 Miguel Angel Rodriguez in a four-game thriller.

The pair engaged in some lengthy rallies, with ElShorbagy coming out on top more often than not to build up a two-game lead before Rodriguez found his length in the third to take it and send the match into a fourth game which saw both players go hell for leather in a bid to establish their superiority in the match.

As the game went on, the intensity of the matches grew while there were frequent discussions with the referee as the duo refused to give in. Rodriguez forced a tie-break where he overturned two match balls but the gruelling nature of the rallies eventually took its toll on the ‘Colombian Cannonball’ as ElShorbagy’s power won out in the end.

“I thought today was a perfect first match of the season for me,” said ElShorbagy.

“Today, I was tested physically and mentally playing Miguel on the bouncy, traditional courts and I passed that test today. You’re playing probably the best player in these kind of conditions, so it was a challenge.

“I knew he was going to play well, he didn’t play well last season but he will have had some good summer training and I haven’t seem him play that well in a while. I’m really proud with the win."

World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad got his tournament off to a winning start against tournament wildcard Faraz Khan and he will take on fellow Egyptian Tarek Momen in the next round.

Two-time runner-up Nick Matthew was also in action as he got the better of Spain’s Borja Golan with a 3-1 victory in his first tournament appearance since he announced that he will retire at the end of the season last week. The World No.4 will meet Peru’s Diego Elias in the last eight after he got the better of Fares Dessouky.

In the women’s event, defending champion Laura Massaro took a step closer to retaining her crown after she dispatched tournament wildcard Aisling Blake in just 25 minutes.

36-year-old Blake was making her first main draw appearance at a Tour event since 2015 after retiring from the sport two years ago and Massaro, the number one seed, ensured that the result went in her favour after the 33-year-old from Preston surged to an 11-5, 11-9, 11-2 victory.

"I thought Aisling played well considering she's been retired for two years," said Massaro.

"I’m excited to be back, China [the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions] didn't go according to plan but I’ve put in a a few changes in training since then, so hopefully I can do well here ahead of going to the U.S. Open [next month].

"Being in San Francisco is really relaxing, so I feel at home here."

Massaro is joined in the last eight by compatriot and World No.6 Sarah-Jane Perry, who defeated Canadian qualifier Hollie Naughton 11-4, 11-4, 9-11, 11-7 in 37 minutes.

“A few years ago, you used to see a qualifier and think that’s an alright draw but now they’re really tough,” said Perry.

“My length dropped off a little bit maybe. It was good in the first two games but then she stepped up a bit and I was trying to hit some shots that weren’t really on. I had to wrestle back the control and I think I did that in the last game, although I did switch off for a couple of rallies and then she was right back in it."

Perry will face Australia’s Donna Urquhart in the quarter-finals, while Massaro will take on Egyptian number eight seed Salma Hany Ibrahim.

There were also wins for Malaysian eight-time World Champion Nicol David and Victoria Lust, who will face off in the next round, while United States No.2 Olivia Blatchford and India’s Dipika Pallikal Karthik will go head-to-head in the other quarter-final after they beat Millie Tomlinson and Emily Whitlock, respectively.

The Oracle NetSuite Open continues with the quarter-final stage tomorrow (September 27) and selected quarter-final matches will be shown live on SQUASHTV (rest of world) and Eurosport Player (Europe only).

Results - First Round: 2017 Men's Oracle NetSuite Open
[2] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) bt [Q] Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) 3-1: 11-4, 11-8, 9-11, 14-12 (75m)
[7] Daryl Selby (ENG) bt [Q] Campbell Grayson (NZL) 3-0: 11-5, 11-7, 11-8 (55m)
[8] Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt Cesar Salazar (MEX) 3-1: 11-8, 11-7, 7-11, 11-5 (63m)
[4] James Willstrop (ENG) bt [Q] Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi (QAT) 3-2: 7-11, 11-8, 9-11, 11-5, 11-6 (64m)
[3] Nick Matthew (ENG) bt Borja Golan (ESP) 3-1: 7-11, 11-9, 11-5, 11-4 (65m)
Diego Elias (PER) bt [6] Fares Dessouky (EGY) 3-1: 9-11, 11-5, 11-7, 11-3 (54m)
[5] Tarek Momen (EGY) bt [Q] Alan Clyne (SCO) 3-0: 11-7, 11-8, 13-11 (43m)
[1] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY) bt [WC] Faraz Khan (USA) 3-0: 11-9, 11-9, 11-9 (28m)

Draw - Quarter-Final (Top Half): To Be Played September 27th
[2] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v [7] Daryl Selby (ENG)
[8] Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) v [4] James Willstrop (ENG)

Draw - Quarter-Finals (Top Half): To Be Played September 28th
[3] Nick Matthew (ENG) v Diego Elias (PER)
[5] Tarek Momen (EGY) v [1] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)

Results - First Round: 2017 Women’s Oracle NetSuite Open
[1] Laura Massaro (ENG) bt [WC] Aisling Blake (IRL) 3-0: 11-5, 11-9, 11-2 (25m)
[8] Salma Hany Ibrahim (EGY) bt [Q] Nikki Todd (CAN) 3-0: 11-8, 11-5, 11-9 (32m)
[7] Donna Urquhart (AUS) bt [Q] Samantha Cornett (CAN) 3-2: 11-9, 5-11, 11-8, 2-11, 11-8 (52m)
[3] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG) bt [Q] Hollie Naughton (CAN) 3-1: 11-4, 11-4, 9-11, 11-7 (37m)
Dipika Pallikal Karthik (IND) bt [4] Emily Whitlock (ENG) 3-1: 11-9, 11-8, 7-11, 11-8 (52m)
[6] Olivia Blatchford (USA) bt Millie Tomlinson (ENG) 3-0: 11-5, 11-7, 11-8 (28m)
[5] Victoria Lust (ENG) bt [Q] Rachael Grinham (AUS) 3-1: 11-13, 11-8, 11-8, 11-9 (42m)
[2] Nicol David (MAS) bt Heba El Torky (EGY) 3-0: 11-6, 11-8, 11-5 (32m)

Draw - Quarter-Finals: To Be Played September 27th
[1] Laura Massaro (ENG) v [8] Salma Hany Ibrahim (EGY)
[7] Donna Urquhart (AUS) v [3] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)
Dipika Pallikal Karthik (IND) v [6] Olivia Blatchford (USA)

[5] Victoria Lust (ENG) v [2] Nicol David (MAS)

Al Tamimi Upsets Marche in Oracle NetSuite Open Qualifying

Qatar’s World No.42 Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi caused the only major upset in the final qualifying round of the 2017 Oracle NetSuite Open after he overcame World No.23 Gregoire Marche to reach the main draw of the men’s PSA M100 tournament in San Francisco.

The duo were meeting for the first time on the PSA World Tour, with Marche the man in form after his title triumph at the Open International de Squash de Nantes earlier this month.

But it was Al Tamimi who prevailed in San Francisco as the 22-year-old from Doha rose to the win by an 11-8, 3-11, 11-9, 11-6 margin to set up a main draw meeting with last year’s runner-up James Willstrop in round one.

Al Tamimi will be joined in the main draw by Colombia’s former World No.4 Miguel Angel Rodriguez, who came through a nail-biting five-game encounter with Egyptian maverick Mazen Hesham.

Hesham, the 23-year-old World No.70, twice went a game ahead but the experience of Rodriguez paid off as he held his nerve to come back into the clash, winning it 7-11, 11-9, 6-11, 11-9, 11-4 to ensure he will take on World No.3 Mohamed ElShorbagy in a mouthwatering first round encounter.

World No.27 Alan Clyne is also through after coming out on top in an all-Scottish fixture with Greg Lobban, while Campbell Grayson beat Frenchman Lucas Serme in straight games to book his main draw berth. They will play Tarek Momen and Daryl Selby, respectively in the first round.

The women’s final round of qualifying saw the matches go to seeding as 2007 World Champion Rachael Grinham joined Canadian trio Samantha Cornett, Hollie Naughton and Nikki Todd in the main draw of the PSA W50 event.

Grinham dispatched Japan’s Misaki Kobayashi in three games to set up a first round clash with Victoria Lust, while Naughton was forced all the way to five games by Kiwi Amanda Landers-Murphy.

After going 2-1 up, Naughton looked to be up against it after taking just two points from a one-sided fourth game as Landers-Murphy drew level. But the World No.40 prevailed in the fifth game to take it 11-5, 4-11, 11-9, 2-11, 11-9 and she will face World No.6 Sarah-Jane Perry in the main draw.

Cornett defeated fellow Canadian Danielle Letourneau to earn her place in the next round, while Todd ousted Egypt’s Nouran El Torky, who was unable to back up her surprise win over top qualifying seed Coline Aumard in the opening round of qualifying.

First round action from the Oracle NetSuite Open will take place on September 26 at local clubs. Matches from the quarter-finals onwards will take place on the Oracle NetSuite Challenge court on Justin Herman Plaza and will be shown live on SQUASHTV (Rest of World) and Eurosport Player (Europe only) between September 27-30.

Tickets start from $20 and can be purchased atwww.netsuiteopensquash.tix.com

Results - Final Qualifying Round: 2017 Men’s Oracle NetSuite Open
[4] Campbell Grayson (NZL) bt [6] Lucas Serme (FRA) 3-0: 11-2, 11-8, 11-6 (45m)
[2] Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL) bt [8] Mazen Hesham (EGY) 3-2: 7-11, 11-9, 6-11, 11-9, 11-4 (70m)
[5] Abdulla Al Tamimi (QAT) bt [1] Gregoire Marche (FRA) 3-1: 11-8, 3-11, 11-9, 11-6 (49m)
[3] Alan Clyne (SCO) bt [7] Greg Lobban (SCO) 3-1: 11-13, 11-3, 11-5, 14-12 (71m)

Draw - First Round: To Be Played September 26th
[2] Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY) v [Q] Miguel Angel Rodriguez (COL)
[Q] Campbell Grayson (NZL) v [7] Daryl Selby (ENG)
[8] Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) v Cesar Salazar (MEX)
[Q] Abdulla Mohd Al Tamimi (QAT) v [4] James Willstrop (ENG)
[3] Nick Matthew (ENG) v Borja Golan (ESP)
Diego Elias (PER) v [6] Fares Dessouky (EGY)
[5] Tarek Momen (EGY) v [Q] Alan Clyne (SCO)
[WC] Faraz Khan (USA) v [1] Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)

Results - Final Qualifying Round: 2017 Women’s Oracle NetSuite Open
Nikki Todd (CAN) bt Nouran El Torky (EGY) 3-1: 6-11, 11-4, 11-7, 11-8 (35m)
[3] Samantha Cornett (CAN) bt [8] Danielle Letourneau (CAN) 3-0: 11-7, 11-7, 11-7 (33m)
[4] Hollie Naughton (CAN) bt Amanda Landers-Murphy (NZL) 3-2: 11-5, 4-11, 11-9, 2-11, 11-9 (46m) 
[2] Rachael Grinham (AUS) bt Misaki Kobayashi 3-0: 11-9, 11-9, 11-5 (27m)

Draw - First Round: To Be Played September 26th
[1] Laura Massaro (ENG) v [WC] Aisling Blake (IRL)
[Q] Nikki Todd (CAN) v [8] Salma Hany Ibrahim (EGY)
[7] Donna Urquhart (AUS) v [Q] Samantha Cornett (CAN)
[Q] Hollie Naughton (CAN) v [3] Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)
[4] Emily Whitlock (ENG) v Dipika Pallikal Karthik (IND)
Millie Tomlinson (ENG) v [6] Olivia Blatchford (USA)
[5] Victoria Lust (ENG) v [Q] Rachael Grinham (AUS)
Heba El Torky (EGY) v [2] Nicol David (MAS)

It’s an England double in St Louis

England claimed two of the three titles on offer – for the second time in a row – when Clive Leach & John Russell and Suzie Pierrepont & Georgina Stoker struck gold in the Men’s and Women’s events, respectively, in the Stifel World Hardball Doubles Squash Championships in St Louis in the US state of Missouri.
There was home success earlier in the day when sixth-seeded US pairing Natalie Grainger & Christopher Callis triumphed in the Mixed championship.
Despite being the title-holders, Leach & Russell were the fourth seeds – but made their breakthrough in the semi-finals where they despatched No.1 seeds Michael Ferreira & Jonny Smith
The established English duo – appearing in the final for the fourth time in five years – took a two-game lead against their younger Canadian opponents Thomas Brinkman & Robin Clarke. The unseeded pair (pictured below in final action, in white shorts) soon drew level to force a decider – but it was the seasoned English pair, aged 43 and 38, who reached match-ball first at 14-12.
After two match-balls were saved, it was sudden death at 14-all. With Leach pressuring Brinkman to hit the ball back to himself and give away a stroke, it was the English duo who retained their title 15-10, 15-10, 3-15, 7-15, 15-14.
“I got sucked into hitting aimlessly across court and lost the battle with Thomas in the middle but then got back to the plan of mixing height with width and some down the middle to try and force an error,” said Russell later. “It worked but it was close!”
Women’s favourites Narelle Krizek & Natarsha McElhinny, the Australian sisters formerly known as Narelle and Natarsha Tippett, duly reached the final – but the title remained in English hands.
It was a joyful climax for second seeds Suzie Pierrepont & Georgina Stoker who competed in the 2015 final – on opposite sides of the court. After dropping the first game, the England pair stormed back to take the title 12-15, 15-11, 15-3, 15-7 – marking a successful defence for 2015 champion Pierrepont.
“I lost to Suzie in the final two years ago in the final,” said Stoker (pictured above at the trophy presentations). “So it was really great to have won with her this time. I was so nervous for the first game and could hardly hit it he ball, but after we won the second I settled in and we came out firing in the third and fourth.”
Seasoned hardball doubles campaigner Natalie Grainger, the 40-year-old former world No.1, was partnered by 28-year-old Christopher Callis in the Mixed final. The USA pair had already accounted for the No.4 seeds in the first round and now faced third-seeded Canadians Stephanie Hewitt & Viktor Berg.
After taking the opening game, Grainger and Callis fell 2/1 behind – then had to save three match-balls in the fourth to force a decider. But experience shone through as the home duo marched on to win 15-9, 10-15, 11-15, 15-14, 15-7.
“We knew we had to be on high alert with Viktor on the court as he is so dangerous,” said Grainger (pictured above at the presentations). “We had to up the pace and add variety – we are so pleased to have got the win.”
Men’s Final:
[4] Clive Leach & John Russell (ENG) bt Thomas Brinkman & Robin Clarke (CAN) 15-10, 15-10, 3-15, 7-15, 15-14
Women’s Final:
[2] Suzie Pierrepont & Georgina Stoker (ENG) bt [1] Narelle Krizek & Natarsha McElhinny (AUS) 12-15, 15-11, 15-3, 15-7
Mixed Semi-finals:
[6] Natalie Grainger & Christopher Callis (USA) bt [7] Tina Rix & John Russell (ENG) 15-8, 15-8, 15-4
[3] Stephanie Hewitt & Viktor Berg (CAN) bt [5] Suzie Pierrepont & James Stout (ENG) 11-15, 7-11, 15-11, 15-14, 15-13
[6] Natalie Grainger & Christopher Callis (USA) bt [3] Stephanie Hewitt & Viktor Berg (CAN) 15-9, 10-15, 11-15, 15-14, 15-7
For more details, visit www.worlddoubles.com

World’s Top Squash Stars to Appear at Most Lucrative Hong Kong Open Ever

The world’s greatest squash players will return to Asia for the 2017 Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open between November 14-19 in what will be the most lucrative edition of the PSA World Series event ever.

A prize fund of $305,000 dollars will be up for grabs across both the men’s and women’s event - an increase of $40,000 compared to last year - with the likes of World No.1 Gregory Gaultier, World Champion Karim Abdel Gawad, two-time winner Mohamed ElShorbagy and defending champion Ramy Ashour battling it out for the men’s title.

Home hero and World No.22 Max Lee - who reached his maiden World Series semi-final in the 2016 instalment - will be cheered on by his home fans in Hong Kong while his compatriot, World No.34 Leo Au, has been named as the tournament wildcard.

World No.1 and reigning World Champion Nour El Sherbini headlines the women’s event as she aims to improve on last year’s semi-final finish, while defending champion Nouran Gohar also returns.

Gohar ended Malaysian legend Nicol David’s run of 10 straight Hong Kong Open titles in last year’s tournament and the eight-time World Champion will look to make amends this year. 

World No.2 Raneem El Welily, World No.3 Camille Serme and World No.4 Laura Massaro are also amongst the title contenders in Hong Kong, while World No.33 Liu Tsz-Ling is granted the wildcard spot.

Points for the World Series Standings will also be up for grabs as players aim to qualify for the season-ending PSA World Series Finals - with only the top eight players on the men’s and women’s standings earning a coveted berth at the lucrative tournament.

The qualifying stages for the 2017 Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open take place between September 12-13 at the Hong Kong Football Club. The main draw will be staged at the Hong Kong Squash Centre between September 14-19.

Action from every round of the tournament will be shown live on SQUASHTV (Rest of World) and Eurosport Player (Europe Only), while the semi-finals and finals will be shown live on mainstream broadcast channels around the world, including BT Sport, beIN Sports, Fox Sports Australia and Astro.

Further information can be found on the tournament website: http://www.hksquashopen.com 

2017 Men’s Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open - Entry List
1) Gregory Gaultier (FRA)
2) Karim Abdel Gawad (EGY)
3) Mohamed ElShorbagy (EGY)
4) Ali Farag (EGY)
5) Marwan ElShorbagy (EGY)
6) James Willstrop (ENG)
7) Tarek Momen (EGY)
8) Fares Dessouky (EGY)
9) Paul Coll (NZL)
10) Simon Rösner (GER)
11) Mohamed Abouelghar (EGY)
12) Ramy Ashour (EGY)
13) Ryan Cuskelly (AUS)
14) Cameron Pilley (AUS)
15) Zahed Mohamed (EGY)
16) Cesar Salazar (MEX)
17) Max Lee (HKG)
18) Gregoire Marche (FRA)
19) Omar Mosaad (EGY)
20) Mathieu Castagnet (FRA)
21) Alan Clyne (SCO)
22) Saurav Ghosal (IND)
23) Omar Abdel Meguid (EGY)
Wildcard) Leo Au (HKG)

2017 Women’s Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open - Entry List
1) Nour El Sherbini (EGY)
2) Raneem El Welily (EGY)
3) Camille Serme (FRA)
4) Laura Massaro (ENG)
5) Nicol David (MAS)
6) Sarah-Jane Perry (ENG)
7) Nouran Gohar (EGY)
8) Alison Waters (ENG)
9) Annie Au (HKG)
10) Joelle King (NZL)
11) Joshna Chinappa (IND)
12) Emily Whitlock (ENG)
13) Nour El Tayeb (IND)
14) Tesni Evans (WAL)
15) Victoria Lust (ENG)
16) Olivia Blatchford (USA)
17) Donna Urquhart (AUS)
18) Joey Chan (HKG)
19) Salma Hany Ibrahim (EGY)
20) Dipika Pallikal Karthik (IND)
21) Millie Tomlinson (ENG)
22) Heba El Torky (EGY)
23) Fiona Moverley (ENG)
24) Liu Tsz-Ling (HKG)

26 Sep 2017

Squash or tennis, which one is the harder sport?

As someone who plays both squash and tennis, I am often asked which one is the harder sport to play. Considering that I love both equally, I will attempt to do some basic comparisons of the two, and arrive at a conclusion. To avoid complexity, I will stick to the singles version of the two games. The views below pertain to club level players and not to professionals.
Tennis courts are larger and require players to cover more court than squash. However, with the modern-day baseline game, the players get a split second more to react between shots. As per studies conducted, the average ground stroke in tennis takes less than 2 sec.
Squash courts are much smaller than tennis courts and have walls on all four sides. Both the players play on the same court, alternating shots, using the lines and “tin” on the front wall to keep the serve in play. Unlike tennis, the back wall often keeps the ball in play, making the rallies longer. Squash players have to be constantly on the move, but have to cover far less court than tennis players.
Difficulty level: Even
Tennis racquets vary in size and weight. Based on the material and the size of the frame used, their weights range on an average between 250-325 grams. From a racquet sports perspective, tennis balls weigh the heaviest at around 57-58 grams.
Squash racquets are lighter and weigh in the range of 110-175 grams. Squash balls are smaller in diameter than tennis balls and weigh on an average 23-25 grams. Squash balls practically do not bounce until they are warmed up before a game by repeated strokes against the wall.
Difficulty level: Tennis
Tennis serve is the hardest component of the game that a new player encounters. Beyond the mechanics of a good serve, a poor serve is often easily attacked by the opposing player, putting the server at a disadvantage. A good first serve can deliver an “ace” when the opposing player is unable to make contact with the ball. Tennis players get a second serve when the first one is out of play, which emphasises the fact that even experienced players struggle to keep up a high first service percentage.
Squash serve in comparison is mellow. Power squash serves are not the norm. Skilled players use surprise elements in their serve by varying the spot to which they direct their serve. Unlike tennis, squash players rarely rely on service points or aces to win crucial points. An ace is harder to achieve in squash since the back wall often puts the ball back in play.
Difficulty level: Tennis
Return of serve
Tennis: In my opinion, return of a good serve is harder than the serve itself. Returning a serve, carefully placed to a player’s backhand corner, makes for difficult play. It also opens up the court for the server’s next shot. Putting back in play, a powerful first serve that combines good placement, can only come with years of experience. Professional players’ serves are often clocked at above 150 mph.
Squash: A return of serve is more of a set up shot in squash rather than a defensive or attacking one. The main intent of the returning player is to hit “length” that allows him/her to get to the “T.” Occasionally, a weak serve gets attacked by the receiving server in the form of a drive or a drop. A squash shot can be hit at speeds above 150 mph. However, the wall slows the ball down for the receiving player.
Difficulty level: Tennis
Tennis rallies involving baseline players can be long. Points are often won from unforced errors when one of the players tries to close off the point by hitting a harder, deeper or more angled shot. Rallies involving serve and volley players tend to be shorter, but more entertaining to watch than ones involving baseline players. Tennis players use different techniques while returning shots on the back hand that include single-handed, double-handed or sliced returns.
Squash rallies are quicker and involve the players constantly moving and at the same time keeping an eye on the ball. The ball is often behind the players and has to be kept in play without interference. Through a combination of drops, drives, boasts and lobs, the players try to keep the ball away from their opponent.
Difficulty level: Squash
Tennis: Volleys are a vital part of serve and volley tennis. However, with more and more players opting for baseline play, volleys are limited to the rare times when players “rush the net” or “chip and charge.”
Squash: While the traditional squash players were content playing length off the back wall, the new crop of players try to volley more balls in the air, effectively reducing their opponents’ response time. More rallies are played in the forecourt than ever before, making the game more aggressive and engaging.
Difficulty level: Even
Tennis: Drop is often a surprise shot in tennis. A good drop is a difficult shot and happens when one of the players fakes a drive, but suddenly changes the shot to a drop, catching the opponent by surprise.
Squash: In squash, drop is an essential tool and can be used in an attacking or defensive manner. A drop or a re-drop that does not sit up can make all the difference in the outcome of a game. Unlike tennis, a squash player cannot get good unless he/she perfects the drop shot.
Difficulty level: Squash
Tennis: Played at the professional level, tennis can be a gruelling sport that can take four to five hours to complete. At the club level, a game of singles tennis takes an hour or two at the most. People with average physical fitness can play tennis well into their senior years. As they slow down, players switch to doubles tennis to continue enjoying the game. Improper techniques may lead to injuries like the famous “tennis elbow,” shoulder cuff and/or wrist issues.
Squash requires a higher level of physical fitness. The typical time allocated for squash at most clubs is forty minutes. The constant movement and lunges take their toll and give the players a quick but thorough work out in a relatively short time frame. Squash players tend to injure their knees the most. Novice players who do not clear, or play too close to their opponent risk getting hit by the racquet or the ball.
Difficulty level: Squash
Conclusion: While both the games bring a high level of difficulty and excitement to players,[Tweet “Tennis edges out squash as the harder sport to learn”]. A tennis player who gets on a squash court for the first time will be able to keep a few rallies going. I cannot say the same for a squash player who gets on a tennis court for the first time!
Personally, I prefer squash. It is a quicker workout in a shorter span of time. At the end of the day, it is about having fun. As my tag line says: Have a ball!
Please comment, and vote below, to let me know if you agree or disagree. If you like this post, please share it using the sharing options below.
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